Lawmakers may solve Utah’s problem with outlaw AirBNBs and improve affordable housing in the state in the process. Robert Gehrke explains.


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Don’t get me improper: I like short-term leases.

However final 12 months, I wrote about an actual drawback: The exploding short-term rental market in Utah was exacerbating an already-untenable housing scarcity within the state.

What’s extra, a good portion of those short-term leases are positioned in locations the place cities say they’re not allowed attributable to zoning restrictions, however the Legislature had tied cities’ fingers, passing laws 5 years in the past prohibiting municipalities from imposing the zoning restrictions by occurring an Airbnb or VRBO web site and figuring out unlawful leases.

As a substitute, they needed to wait for an additional violation — a noise criticism from a neighbor or a police name.

Which will lastly be about to alter.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, launched a significant inexpensive housing invoice with plenty of good provisions (extra on these later), together with the final traces of the measure, which might repeal the foolish restriction on how cities are allowed to crack down on unlawful short-term leases.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Steve Waldrip discusses the air high quality laws and appropriations requests throughout the 2021 Basic Session, together with the Utah LegislatureÕs bipartisan Clear Air Caucus, throughout a information convention on the steps of the Capitol, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.

Once I wrote my piece final 12 months, I acquired plenty of blowback from short-term rental hosts and the property rights crowd.

“Though I perceive your whole complaints, I disagree that authorities ought to have any management over what anybody does with their personal property,” one reader wrote about my piece. “Solely a liberal would counsel that authorities management and intervene with what residents do with personal property. … Individuals such as you disgust me.”

Waldrip will in all probability get a few of that very same flack. And I perceive those that assume: What’s the massive deal if I let somebody hire a dwelling for a number of nights?

Effectively, for one factor, they’re unlawful. And, as Waldrip — who isn’t a liberal — explains, they’ll disrupt communities.

“Whereas they’re an important instrument in the best location, within the improper places, they’ll trigger some issues with the neighborhoods and communities the place they’re not zoned for it,” he stated. “There’s an expectation when folks transfer right into a neighborhood and the zoning is such that they’re not allowed. Once they turn into prevalent and alter the neighborhood, you might have a complete totally different really feel.”

Then there’s the sheer scope of the market and its affect on Utah’s total housing image. There are 19,000 short-term rental models statewide, in accordance with the Kem Gardner Coverage Institute. Every of these is a rental unit {that a} Utahn may in any other case name house. Waldrip stated an estimated 30% of them aren’t legally located.

The issue is very acute in resort communities like Park Metropolis, the place greater than a 3rd of the buildings on the town are short-term leases and town has lower than 1 / 4 of the inexpensive housing it wants.

“Should you take these leases which can be inappropriately held for in a single day leases and put them again into the housing market, you’re speaking a few important variety of housing models coming again into the market,” Waldrip stated.

Shifting these 5,700 models again into the long-term leases may assist put a significant dent within the estimated 55,000-unit scarcity in single-family houses, residences and different forms of housing throughout the state.

Clearly, it doesn’t resolve all the drawback. That’s the place the remainder of Waldrip’s invoice is available in.

The cornerstone of the invoice is a list of moderate-income housing statewide, so we are able to establish the most important drawback areas, set targets for the way a lot every neighborhood needs to be contributing to the answer after which dedicate assets to attending to that objective. And it comes with assets, searching for $50 million for the Olene Walker Housing fund.

Below the invoice, cities could be required to submit particular methods to develop inexpensive housing and prioritize the cash to these prepared to be most aggressive in regards to the mission. A revision, Waldrip stated, will direct communities to construct round Trax, FrontRunner and bus corridors.

It places one other $50 million right into a rural housing mortgage fund aimed toward serving to bolster investments in housing and pay for labor in locations which can be quick on each.

“As dangerous as the issue is alongside the Wasatch Entrance, I feel it’s much more acute in rural Utah,” Waldrip stated. “We have now communities in rural Utah the place they’ve two or three houses out there however they’ve 150 to 200 job openings.”

There are different good components to the invoice, too, like a requirement that 20% of the housing on the outdated state jail website be allotted to moderate-income occupants. It’s an excellent piece of laws, probably a game-changer. And it’s certain to ruffle some feathers of those that are fed up with extra development and extra housing density and assume it erodes their high quality of life.

However as Waldrip sees it, his invoice seeks to verify our subsequent technology can afford to stay right here and protect Utah’s high quality of life.

“We have now to start out preaching … that for the primary time for the reason that pioneers, in-migration to Utah final 12 months was larger than our native development,” he stated. “If we wish to destroy the standard of life in Utah, the quickest path is to export our youngsters as a result of they don’t have housing and import folks from different locations who can afford actually costly housing.”